St Osyth's Priory: Garden Walls located to the east and west of the Rose Garden, south of the Darcy Wall


Heritage Category: Listed Building

Grade: II

List Entry Number: 1111466

Date first listed: 04-Jul-1986

Date of most recent amendment: 20-Mar-2014

Statutory Address: The Priory, St Osyth, Clacton-on-sea, CO16 8NZ


Ordnance survey map of St Osyth's Priory: Garden Walls located to the east and west of the Rose Garden, south of the Darcy Wall
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Statutory Address: The Priory, St Osyth, Clacton-on-sea, CO16 8NZ

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Essex

District: Tendring (District Authority)

Parish: St. Osyth

National Grid Reference: TM1214815669


Two Garden Walls of C16 origins, built for Lord Darcy, with later modifications.

Reasons for Designation

The Garden Walls at St Osyth’s Priory are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: the walls were constructed in the C16 for Lord Darcy and retain much of their historic fabric, their construction is characteristic of the architectural legacy of the Darcys. The west wall incorporates a well-proportioned stone entrance of considerable aesthetic merit at the south end; * Historic interest: the walls are important elements of the evolution of the site by Lord Darcy, which included the creation of designed landscape features; * Group value: the walls have group value with the other designated buildings and structures on the site, the Scheduled Monument and the registered Park and Garden.


The settlement now known as St Osyth is recorded as Chicc in the Domesday Book of 1086, and is said to be the location of a C7 convent founded by Acca, Bishop of Dunwich. Its first Abbess Osyth, daughter of the Mercian king Frithwald and wife to Sighere, the first Christian king of Essex is purported to have been brutally martyred at the hands of Danish marauders in 653. Her name was later commemorated by the renaming of the village as St Osyth, although it continued to be known also as Chich into the post-medieval period. The location of the convent is unknown although Nun’s Wood to the north of the Priory may be relevant. Within Nun’s Wood a possible moated site and a series of fish ponds may relate to pre- or early Priory occupation of the estate.

Archaeological finds of the C8 to C10 indicates a settlement of that date at or near to the present village. The Church of St Peter and St Paul is thought to be the site of St Peter’s Minister mentioned in a document of c.1050. The Domesday Book records that there were three Manors at Chicc in 1066.

The Priory was founded shortly after 1120 by Richard de Belmeis, Bishop of London, as a house for Augustinian canons from Holy Trinity, London. The Priory was dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, and St Osyth and became an abbey before 1161. It is most likely that a park was associated with the abbey, possibly from 1268 when a charter was granted to the abbey allowing some hunting rights. Of the monastic buildings, the earliest remaining work is the sub-vault of the Dorter range which is of the period of the foundation; the still existing portions of the walls bounding the Cloister on the east and west are possibly also of this date. The fragmentary upstanding remains of what was probably the Kitchen are of the early-C13; to the same period belong the remains of the early gatehouse. In c.1230–40 the Frater was rebuilt with the vaulted passage to the east of it; at the end of the C13 the vaults in the former west range were built. The Great Gatehouse and the ranges flanking it and projecting south from it were built in the late-C15; the eastern of these ranges incorporates the earlier gatehouse. In about 1527 extensive additions were made by Abbot Vyntoner who built the Abbot's Lodging, aligned east west on the north side of the court, with an adjoining range running north-south (known as the South Wing in 2012). These abbey buildings survive to varying degrees of intactness, the most prominent today being the gatehouse and the Abbot’s Lodging, both reflecting the abbey’s wealth in the late medieval period.

The Abbot and Canons took the Oath of Supremacy in 1534 and received pensions after the surrender in July 1539. Post-dissolution, the Priory was bought by Thomas, 1st Lord Darcy, Lord Chamberlain of Edward VI’s household in 1553. It was Darcy and his successors who, in the mid-C16 and after, transformed the abbey into a substantial house. At this time the conventual church, which flanked the cloister to the south, was destroyed together with the major portion of the east and west ranges of the cloister quadrangle; the ends of the remaining portions of these ranges were faced with chequer-work, the Abbot's and Clock Towers were built and the upper part of the dorter range rebuilt to form a residence. In the early years of the Civil War, when it belonged to the 3rd Lord Darcy’s daughter, Countess Rivers, the Priory was sacked.

It remained in the ownership of the Countess Rivers's heirs until 1714, but during this period it was largely uninhabited and ruinous. It then passed by marriage to Frederic Nassau de Zuylestein, 3rd Earl of Rochford. In the 1720s he built a new house on the north side of the precinct and restored the gatehouse. His son added the surviving C18 range and laid out the park. The Nassau family remained in possession of the Priory until 1858, when it passed to Charles Brandreth, only to be sold to Mr (later Sir) John Johnson, a London corn merchant, in 1863. Brandreth demolished Lord Rochford’s house. Johnson began the restoration of the Abbot’s Lodging in the 1860s and went on to restore the south range and embellish the gardens and park.

The property passed through a number of owners in the C20. The house was used as a convalescent home from 1948 until the 1980s. Between 1954 and 1999 the Priory was the home of Somerset de Chair who converted the gatehouse to a residence. His extensive art collection was displayed in the C18 house.

The surviving buildings on the site range in date from the C12 to the C19, and are complimented by buried archaeological remains pertaining to the Priory and a late-C18 to C20 designed landscape. All of the buildings have a chequered history of alteration and change of use reflected in their fabric The two garden walls which define the east and west boundary of the C20 rose and sunken gardens were constructed for Lord Darcy in the C16. The western wall has a later archway with a wrought iron gate inserted at its north end, near to the junction with the remaining facade of the second Lord Darcy’s house. The current list description states that it has a central stone segmental arched doorway with vertical slits to left and right, but this doorway could not be found. The eastern wall has had a brick capping added later and an arched entrance inserted at the southern end. Both of the walls have lost some of their capping. They were listed at Grade II in 1950 and are noted as being part of the Scheduled Monument in the current list description.


MATERIALS. The west wall of c.3-4m high is built of Septaria, rubble and brick with some red brick, and has a stone capping. The east wall is of red brick.

EXTERIOR. The west wall is approximately 64 m long and abuts the east range of the Gatehouse to the south and the front wall of the second Lord Darcy’s mansion to the north, where a later segmental archway with a wrought iron gate has been inserted. Near to the southern end is a 4-centred archway in chamfered stone, with a hood mould and Septaria and brick parapet above on the west face. On the east face is a secondary brick arch above the opening and flanking stone buttresses with tiled copings. On the west face, adjacent to the east range of the gatehouse, is a lean-to in similar materials with a pantiled roof.

The east wall is 3-4m high and approximately 83m long; it abuts the precinct wall to the south and the Darcy tower to the north. It is constructed of red brick laid in English bond, has a later soldier capping and an arched doorway inserted at the southern end.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 120036

Legacy System: LBS


Books and journals
Bettley, J, Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Essex, (2007)
Robinson, M, The Geography of Augustinian Settlement in medieval England and Wales: Volumes 1 and 2. BAR British Series, (1980)
Robinson, DM, 'Monastic Research Bulletin no. 18' in The Augustinian Canons in England and Wales; Architecture, Archaeology and Liturgy 1100-1540., (2012)
, accessed from
Debois Landscape Survey Group, St Osyth Priory, Essex: Historic Landscape Survey, 2003,
Liz Lake, St Osyth Priory Estate: Conservation Management plan, 2011,
Pete Smith, St Osyths Priory: Historic Buildings Report, 2011,
Pete Smith, St Osyths Priory: Historic Buildings Report, 2011,
Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England, Part 15 Essex,

End of official listing